Tense Nigeria on brink amid rising indications of another coup

military coupFrom EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria,ABUJA, (CAJ News) – ALMOST two decades after the demise of military juntas,and over two years since a political transition hailed globally as setting a model for African elections, conflict-prone Nigeria is slipping towards a precipice amid rising fears of a military coup.
The dreaded phenomenon comes in the wake of the continued absence of ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, a coup plotter in the 1980s historically elected into power as democrat in 2015.
At the center of that simmering crisis and power struggles is the long-running concept of zoning, which has defined Nigerian politics since the demise of military rule in 1999, in a country equally divided between Christians and Muslims.An unwritten law, zoning holds that the presidency should rotate between the largely Christian south and the predominantly Muslim north after every two terms.If Buhari, a northerner, who is on sick leave abroad indefinitely, leaves office before his first term ends, as is highly likely, Osinbajo, his deputy who is a southerner, would take over until elections are held in
2019.Some officials from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are apparently against this transition claiming the north “must finish its term.”
Reports have heightened in recent days some politicians, perceptibly from the north, were planning to overthrow the administration of Buhari, to prevent a possible transfer of power to a southerner.Possibilities of a power transfer from Buhari, a northern Muslim, to Osinbajo, a Southern Christian, are becoming highly probable as the president battles suspected prostate cancer in London. There have been a plethora of rumours he has died.
Buhari (74) is under pressure to hand power over to his deputy (aged 60) to overcome a predicament suffered by the West African country in 2010 when President Umaru Musa Yar’aduwa died in office.Yar’adua’s lengthy absence to seek medical treatment for heart problems abroad created a power vacuum many felt would lead to instability and a possible military takeover in a country with a sordid past reputation of military coups until the advent of democracy in 1999.Seven years after the crisis sparked by Yar’adua’s health problems and eventual death, fears of a coup have returned to haunt conflict-prone Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy.
With the increasing possibility that power could change hands, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has issued a statement alleging some politicians were trying to overthrow the government and scuttle the ascension of the acting president Osinbajo. Buratai alleged some unnamed politicians were approaching the military for “some political reasons.”The expression is used in Nigeria to mean a coup.“The Chief of Army Staff has received information that some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons,” said Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman, the director army public relations.
“On the basis of that, he has warned such persons to desist from these acts.”
According to the army spokesperson, all officers and soldiers have been warned against partisan politics.“Any officer or soldier of the Nigerian Army found to be hobnobbing withsuch elements or engaged in unprofessional conducts such as politicking
will have himself or herself to blame,” Usman warned.However, analysts warned some officers could be manipulated owing to the
divisions besetting the army and other state security agents.The Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC), an independent body but led by technocrats within the uniformed forces, expressed concern at the “inter-agency rivalry” bedevilling security agencies.
The Executive Secretary of CCC, Air Commodore Yusuf Anas, said these enmities had been noted in the media as the forces battled the Boko Haram terror group terrorising the northeastern parts of the country. Some 20 000civilians have been killed and 2 million displaced.“We have observed some disturbing trends, blame games and breaches in information disclosures among agencies of government,” said Anas.He was speaking in Abuja at a special meeting of the Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), sponsored by Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) in collaboration with the CCC.
“We therefore call for restraint as we urge effective synergy,collaboration and cooperation among agencies to protect their image and that of our country as we protect our national security interest,” Anas appealed.
A significant proportion of Nigeria’s estimated 190 million population was not born when the country suffered its first coup in 1966.Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Nzeogwu toppled the government and killed Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region and Premier Ladoke Akintola of the Western Region.President Nwafor Orizu handed over government control to the army.A counter coup the same year, facilitated by northern military officers, catapulted Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon to head of state, triggering tension between north and south.
Beginning in 1979, Nigeria retained democracy when Olusegun Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari.
Then a military figure, Buhari overthrew Shagari’s government viewed as corrupt. Shagari, ironically, known for his tough stance on corruption, he pledged reforms but was overthrown by another military coup in 1985, with Ibrahim Babangida, declaring himself president.Babangida himself survived an abortive coup before elections which were held in 1993, the first since a coup in 1983.
Flamboyant businessman and philanthropist, Moshood Abiola, a southerner, won ahead of northerner Bashir Tofa, but Babangida inexplicably annulled the outcome, leading to widespread protests.Gen. Sani Abacha made the most of the chaos to stage a coup.The regime came to an end in 1998, when the dictator died, paving way for democratization a year later, ending three decades of military juntas.This week, one of the country’s most eminent politicians and APC nationalleader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, vowed attempts to overthrow the government to allegedly prevent a possible transfer of power from would be “staunchly” will be resisted.
“Nigeria has gone too far to allow a thing like military coup happening again. Such a devastating move will be resisted at all cost,” Tinubu said at celebrations held to mark the 50th year to the creation of Lagos State.
Tinubu was influential in the ascension of Osinbajo, a bright professor oflaw, as running mate of Buhari in the historic election of 2015 as Nigeria received global acclaim for the smooth transition of power from Goodluck Jonathan to Buhari.
Osinbajo, a mellow figure compared to the authoritarian Buhari, has endeared himself to the majority, initially during his reign on an acting capacity earlier this year as Buhari spent his first medical stint overseas. He spent seven weeks overseas amid allegations his medical trip could have been longer had it not been to the northerner’s faction of the party pressurising him to return in March.The ruling party, albeit beset by incessant divisions since winning power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), declared Nigerians would resist an affront to their democracy.“If there was any such thing in the offing, I think it is clear to everyone that Nigerians will defend their own democracy,” said Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, APC spokesman.
The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), an umbrella of the civil society organisations and human rights groups, urged Nigerians and their “international friends and partners” to be cautious and careful over the recent public warningregarding a coup.
“Our deepest concern is the sweeping alacrity with which Nigerians including media, democracy and human rights activists and practitioners as well as some members of the international community have reacted to the said coup,” said Intersociety chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi.
He dismissed the warning as “gravely unprocessed and unscientific” before questioning if the soldiers or politicians said to be approaching them for “some political reasons” would be investigated.“We have always been open and transparent with information and if there is anything, we will let the public know,” Usman responded.

– CAJ News

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Posted by on Jul 3 2017. Filed under Africa & World, Featured, National, News, Regional. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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